Monday, July 15, 2013

Open Championship Review

            At the start of this year it seemed incomprehensible that there would not be a Rules situation every single week of the golf season.  And yet, since Tiger infamously dropped his ball in a place that was a combination of two correct options (two wrongs don’t make a right, but two rights can make a wrong), with the exception of anchoring (don’t say another word), the Rules front has been fairly quiet.  So on the first full day of British Open week, we’ll review two major Rules incidents from last year’s Open Championship.

Paul Azinger and the “Clowns”

            ‘Zinger is a fine golfer and is typically a pretty fair and practical analyst, but where he goes astray is with the Rules.  He really just doesn’t know when to let the experts handle it.  So when Tiger’s ball on the sixth hole found the greenside bunker in a nearly impossible position he suggested emphatically that Tiger should take an unplayable and drop the ball outside the bunker.  Those of us who do know the Rules were quick to correct him, including a large portion via Twitter (including myself).  He maintained his position that Tiger could drop outside the bunker for a good 30 minutes including a side comment about “a bunch of clowns” on Twitter who think they’re experts.

            Well, those experts were right.  Under Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable), when a player’s ball lies in the bunker, the only option the player has to get outside the bunker is to proceed under stroke an distance (Rule 28a).  Rules 28b and 28c require that the ball be dropped in the bunker.

            Azinger was confusing Rule 28 with another Rule that was applicable in certain circumstances that week, Rule 25-1b.  Because of the rains, there was plenty of standing water in the bunker.  Under Rule 25-1b, when a player has interference from an abnormal ground condition (burrowing animal hole, casual water or ground under repair), the player has an additional option of dropping outside the bunker on a line that keeps the point where the ball originally lay between the dropped ball and the flagstick, under penalty of one stroke.  A player had opted to drop in such a fashion earlier in the day so it was fairly reasonable for Azinger to make that mistake.  This year, I hope, Azinger will just let Peter Dawson do the talking…

Adam Scott’s Moving Ball

            On the seventh hole of the final round, Adam Scott had hit his approach just long of the green at the top of a fairly steep slope.  He took several practice swings near the ball, walked away and about t10-20 seconds later the ball began to roll down the hill.  As Scott had not addressed the ball, the applicable Rule was 18-2a.  The Rules Official had to determine whether Scott had caused the ball to move or if it had started to move on its own.  Azinger also chimed in here claiming that a previous similar ruling had gone against him earlier in his career (which is true) and that it was going to be a one-stroke penalty.  On air, Peter Dawson (Chief Rules Official for the R & A) agreed.

            The walking Rules Official with the group, after questioning Scott determined that he had NOT caused the ball to move and the ball was to be played from where it came to rest without penalty.  Rules officials across the globe were on the edge of their seats.  The ruling could honestly have gone either way.  The determination was made because there was a significant amount of time between Scott’s practice swings and when the ball began to move, even though the practice swings were taken relatively close to the position of the ball.  Had Scott won the Open, many would’ve looked back and questioned the official’s ruling.  Had he been penalized and Scott had lost, many would’ve questioned the ruling.  In the end, it was the right call and it did not have an effect on the outcome of the championship.

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